Of all the foes Westhill’s boys soccer team has faced in its march to the no. 4 mark in the state Class B rankings and a possible undefeated regular season, no one has given them as much cumulative trouble as Cazenovia.
Such was the case again last Tuesday night at the Sean Googin Sports Complex, where the visiting Warriors needed all of its grit and poise to fight past the Lakers 1-0.
They had first played Sept. 13 on Westhill’s turf, a game where Cazenovia twice erased one-goal deficits and forced overtime before Jake Etoll’s goal just second into the extra period produced a 3-2 Warriors win.
Now Westhill dealt with a Lakers side in a bad mood after a non-league loss to Rome Free Academy three days earlier, and it quickly turned into a tough, physical battle.
The first half was a 0-0 stalemate. Cazenovia’s defense did a superb job breaking up Westhill’s attacks and not letting the likes of Barak BenYehuda or Conor Powell get open space.
All of that changed, though, in the second half when Lakers goalkeeper Chris Matteson attemped to make a clear. Westhill’s Matt Torak picked it off and quickly found Powell, stationed 15 yards from the net. With a point-blank shot, Powell beat Matteson on the right side, putting Westhill in front.
And the Warriors’ defense, led by Matt Perry, Luke Stapleton and Colton Price, did the rest, rarely letting the Lakers operate in Westhill’s end and protecting goalie Chris Burrows, who only had to make four saves.
In total contrast to the battle at Cazenovia, the Warriors’ Thursday trip to Jordan-Elbridge provided some relaxation as Westhill pounded the Eagles 6-1.
A 4-0 first half erased any possible doubts, as Powell again proved tough to stop, finishing with two goals and one assist. Etoll also scored twice as Jackson Haber and Mike McKnight earned single goals. BenYehuda added an assist.